There’s a lot of laughter, and a lot of learning, too.
The program, which started in March, is offered the first Wednesday of the month from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Both non-profits are still trying to figure out what works and tweak what doesn’t. Museum staffers were trained by the Alzheimer’s Association on how to respond appropriately to visitors with dementia. The group is kept small, no more than 20 at a time, and they don’t go into galleries that are overstimulating. A staff member from the Alzheimer’s Association is also present throughout the program to assist if needed.
Art has multiple benefits for the brain, providing good cognitive stimulation in different areas, said Kara Johnson, an Atlanta Alzheimer’s Association care consultant. But the program is more than an art history lesson. It’s an opportunity to build friendships with others going through the same journey. Participants are encouraged to engage in conversations about the artwork, as well as share their life stories.
“A lot of people feel very isolated when they get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. They often self-isolate because they’re afraid of making a mistake. This is a safe way for people to be part of the community,” Johnson said.
People 2 People September 18, 2017
Williams said she has seen group members get very comfortable with one another, developing a level of safety and non-judgment. There are no wrong answers in their discussions. “They enjoy one another’s company,” she said.
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To join the group, participants must go through the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter, and be evaluated for early stage dementia. Johnson said it is important to put people together who are in the same stage of the progressive disease so they can form friendships and have opportunities to socialize.
“We want them to all be going through the same stages together,” Johnson said. “This way, care partners meet other care partners. A lot of them meet before the program and go out to lunch together.”
Amanda Williams, an artist and art educator at the High Museum of Art, leads a “Musing Together” art tour designed for people in the early stages of dementia and their care partners. “We just want them to come and enjoy themselves,” Williams said.
The Willises already know the other regulars who attend “Musing Together” through other support programs and groups for early stage Alzheimer’s. Charlene said the camaraderie has made a positive difference in their lives.
“We have a community of friends who are also going through the same journey, and we enjoy being with one another,” she said.
The state Alzheimer’s Association sponsors walking programs and lunch social groups, among other activities for those in the early stages of the disease. The non-profit organization encourages early diagnosis because treatments are more effective in the early stages and could help delay the onset of symptoms, Johnson said.
Free art program at the High Museum of Art for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, and their care partners. Participants are encouraged to discover themselves and one another through conversations about artwork in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Prior knowledge about art or the history of art is not necessary.
• The program is a partnership between the High Museum of Art and the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter. Participants must be evaluated by the Alzheimer’s Association for early stage dementia.
• Meets the first Wednesday of every month, 1-2:30 p.m., in the museum’s galleries, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta.
• To register, or for more information, contact the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter at 800-272-3900.
Source: Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter